Archives For new york city

So about two weeks ago I marked my fifth anniversary of calling New York City “home”; on October 15, 2012 I hosted my first show on 95.5 PLJ.

As I talked about the following April with Sara Bareilles (she moved here in January of 2013), this city accentuates the highs and the lows, and I’ve experienced my fair share of both over the past five years. But there has been one constant: my response to the question, “How do you like living in New York?”

It’s everything I hoped for, and then some.

It is always great catching up with “Extra” New York City host AJ Calloway, who is holding down the city and traveling the globe to interview the biggest names in entertainment for the TV show. Calloway called in Thursday and chatted about a few of his more recent stories, including singer Fergie, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Cruise – an actor who Calloway has gotten to know quite well over the years.

Catch “Extra” weeknights at 7 pm on NBC New York, channel 4.

I’m not sure where to begin on this one.

Yunno what? Let’s start at the beginning. It was August 1, 2007. I was living in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Everything was new: the city (a college town that was slow to evolve because of local traditions), the state (running the gamut from the bad: ‘Wait, the state runs the liquor stores and I can’t buy a six-pack at the gas station?’ to the good: ‘Sheetz! Wawa!’) and of course the job.

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I field, followed by “Who was your favorite celebrity to interview?” and “Which celebrity was a jerk?” is, “Why would you move to Wilkes-Barre for a Top 40 radio show?”

First, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metro is a top 80 market for radio and top 50 for television. Second, the cost of living is low. Third, there’s a venue in the area to host almost any size show. Fourth, you’re pretty close to both New York and Philadelphia.

And so in the summer of 2007, a kid fresh out of Syracuse University with a fake tan, curly afro and questionable soul patch packed up his Kia Rav 4 and drove with his father to Wilkes-Barre. My Dad bought me new furniture and helped me find a studio apartment in downtown (excuse me, Center City) Wilkes-Barre, right by a new movie theater that the locals seemed pretty excited about.

I could have never imagined what would transpire over the following 10 years, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Look, 10 years at any company let alone the first one you work for out of college, is a long time. But 10 years at the same media company… on the same radio station? That’s practically an eternity.

So a few weeks ago, I returned to Scranton and spent a weekend celebrating the accomplishment: a decade on 97.1/95.7 BHT and 10 years with Cumulus Media.

It’s been an incredible journey. Here’s to it not ending anytime soon.


So Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Right Said Fred founding member Fred Fairbrass walk in to a bar. No, this isn’t the set-up for a cheesy joke; rather a foreshadowing of what’s to come the next time all three are in the same city.

Sure the aforementioned artists are an unlikely trio; about as unlikely as the idea of Swift interpolating “I’m Too Sexy” in to the first single from her highly anticipated seventh sixth studio album “Reputation.” And yet the similarities between the 1992 chart-topping hit and “Look What You Made Me Do” were immediately noticed on the internet, well before it was revealed that Fred along with brother Richard and Rob Manzoli received co-writing credits on the track.

The deal was brokered through Right Said Fred’s publishing company Spirit Music Group, whom the band has been with “for ages.” The relationship is so strong that Fairbrass blindly allowed SMG to negotiate with Swift’s team before he even knew of Taylor’s involvement. Eventually he figured out who made the inquiry and was able to hear the final result.

“Well what we like is that the song is pretty cynical,” Fairbrass explained to me via telephone from across the pond. “The original idea of ‘Sexy’…the lyrics are made to be cynical. We were making fun of the hedonism of the late 80’s and early 90’s when we lived in New York. So (Taylor) sort of channeling that cynicism… we’re very pleased that she spotted it.”

In addition to heaping praise upon the song and the artist, Fairbrass also noted that working with Taylor’s team has been a delight.

“PR have been great,” he noted. “And Taylor and Jack have sent us a thank you note and some flowers which was very sweet, and they want to hook up and party and celebrate at some point which would be nice.”

Right Said Fred recently released a mash-up of the two songs; the group is slated to drop a new single in late October.

If there’s one thing you can expect when Halsey kicks off her “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” tour later this year, it’s this: fire.

“I’ve always been very extra with the fire,” the Washington, New Jersey-native told me last month. “Any chance I have to bring fire on my stage, I’m going to do it.”

Matter-of-fact, Halsey revealed to me that during her Billboard Music Awards performance rehearsal, she kept practicing the song over-and-over in part due to the fire that was planned for the set. She certainly didn’t mind the rehearsing; she was once hit with her own fireworks during a Coachella performance (Halsey escaped unscathed).

But besides the obvious visual, there is also a meaning behind the use of fire that relates to the singer’s chart-topping album.

“My record, ‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,’ is kind of about an underworld,” Halsey, born Ashley Frangipane, explained. “It’s kind of about this parallel universe where love conquers all. It’s a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story so bringing in the fire is a really, really cool way for me to kind of rope my audience in to my universe that I’ve tried to create.”

Fans across the country will have the opportunity to witness that universe on the singer’s first-ever arena tour, although Halsey is no stranger to big rooms. She headlined and sold-out Madison Square Garden in 2016; the show went on-sale three weeks after her debut LP “Badlands” came out.

“The whole world went, ‘What do you think you’re doing? You just put out your album. You can’t play MSG,’” she recalled of critics’ initial reaction to the news. “That venue has always been the pinnacle of music for me.

“I was playing a show at Webster Hall. I was playing to 1,500 people (the night tickets for The Garden were released). And I walked up-stage and I got the news that we were about to sell-out Madison Square Garden.”

Halsey said that as amazing as she thinks the arena dates will be, it will be hard to top playing MSG, which she described as, “one of the best experiences of my life.”

She’ll find out when the tour kicks off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on September 29… her birthday.

Last weekend I made the trek up to Uncasville, Connecticut where my friends at Mohegan Sun invited me to head backstage at Mohegan Sun Arena and interview the band Bastille. It was the first time the GRAMMY-nominated quartet played the venue; lead singer Dan Smith and company were fresh in to the North American leg of the “Wild, Wild World Tour” in support of the band’s sophomore effort “Wild World.”

Here are five takeaways from my chat with the group, which was initially broadcasted live on Mohegan Sun’s Facebook page, with a bonus fan-submitted question answered on Twitter.

1.) If Bastille could pick one artist to collaborate with at the moment, it would be Rihanna. “We’ve been asked this for years. We keep saying Rihanna and we haven’t heard a word from her,” drummer Chris “Woody” Wood joked.

2.) Smith confirmed that just as the band released a companion remix album for “Bad Blood”, Bastille will give the same treatment to “Wild World.” “It’s just a question of finding the time,” he elaborated.

3.) Bastille is currently writing it’s third album on the road; they have a designated “Writing Room” backstage. Although last Friday, “Woody” primarily used the space more to play FIFA on Xbox than craft Bastille’s next big hit.

4.) The album art for “Wild World” was not snapped from One World Trade Center, but rather “an undisclosed building, somewhere, maybe.” Smith wouldn’t elaborate but did mention that the cover’s creation is actually a focal point in the show’s production (and I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to spoil it for someone who may be reading this in another part of the U.S. before the concert).

5.) General consensus amongst the band led the members to designate guitarist Will Farquarson as the laziest member of the group, although Smith did mention that there are different genres of lazy. We wanted him to elaborate on this too, but perhaps he didn’t feel like exerting himself?

Watch the full interview and bonus clip below.

For Norman Reedus, one of the stars of “The Walking Dead,” his run on the hit AMC show has been rather unexpected.

“I didn’t know I was going to be on the second episode of the first season,” Reedus revealed to me on the red carpet at The Garden Of Laughs charity event inside The Theater at Madison Square Garden last week. “I’m excited just to be here, you know what I mean?”

Now seven seasons later, the actor who plays Daryl Dixon has grown accustomed to walking around New York City and hearing adoring fans shout, “Don’t die!”

“I get a lot of police love and firemen love here,” he responded when I asked what fan interactions are like in the city. “(They talk) mostly about the show.”

And while Reedus talks about it comfortably, he admitted that there are some scenarios that he is not fully accustomed to.

“I just came back from Madrid and there were 10,000 screaming people in the streets and sometimes that’s overwhelming,” he admitted. “But it always feels good. I mean we work really hard on that show and we shoot it out in a bubble in the woods of Georgia so, when we come out of that and we get a lot of love it feels good.”

Sometimes he doesn’t even have to leave Georgia to feel the love. When I asked Reedus who the most surprising public figure was to tell him that they enjoyed “The Walking Dead,” he responded with Jada Pinkett Smith.

“I saw her in Savannah; she was there for a ‘Magic Mike’ after-party… I think they wrapped there,” he recalled. “She came up to me at a restaurant and said she really loved the show and I geeked out on her.”

Of course after Reedus’ story on “Fallon” about talk show host Sean Hannity sending endless shots of tequila to him and Dave Chappelle once, the Jada Smith run-in will only rank as the second most-random tale he’s told the media this year. Reedus probably encountered a few more TWD fans at The Garden Of Laughs stand-up comedy show. The event featured performances by Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, John Oliver, Tracy Morgan and Sebastian Maniscalco. “Saturday Night Live” star Leslie Jones and Bob Saget also performed at the benefit, which raised $2 million for The Garden Of Dreams Foundation to help kids through the tri-state area overcome obstacles.

Reedus has called New York home for almost 20 years; his son attends school in the city and his mother taught class in the Bronx and Harlem.

I still can’t believe they spent five-and-a-half minutes in the middle of a four-hour radio show talking about my two fingers.

Okay, let me backup and explain.

Monday night I was searching through photos on my BlackBerry (go ahead, roll your eyes) and I came across this shot I took of the skyline when I was driving over the RFK Bridge Sunday. I had landed earlier at JFK from my weekend trip to Denver and was riding in a car back to Manhattan with a few friends.

I thought the photo might work well on the radio station’s Instagram and so I loaded it in to the app and started messing with the filters. I landed on a final product that for the most part, I was satisfied with.

“Most part” gets thrown in there because when I was done changing the settings, I noticed that the reflection of my index and middle finger, which I wrapped around the back of the phone to stabilize it, was now noticeable in the photo.

A photo posted by 95.5 PLJ (@955plj) on


Did it matter? Ultimately I naively thought that I was the only one who would notice it enough to detract from the cityscape. So I posted it, people started to like it and I continued on with my show.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning at 11 am. I woke up, looked at my phone and saw 8 missed calls. Every call was from either a private number (which the studio hotline comes up as) or Johnny on the Street.

Turns out that the reflection mattered, at least to Todd and Jayde. In the 8 am hour, right in the middle of the show and on a day when later that hour Ed Sheeran would join the program, the entire cast spent five-and-a-half minutes contemplating what was in the photo.

Jayde guessed a falafel before finally admitting that she thought it looked like “female genitalia.” Annie wondered if it was a fortune cookie. Johnny’s guess was along the lines of Jayde’s but then he went with lips. Monk and Todd joined in on that sentiment… perhaps wax, candy lips? No, too wide they concluded.

How would they really know that?


Anyways, Todd and the crew eventually settled on fingers… the kind that look like everything but fingers. After that, the discussion turned to whether or not I realized the reflection when I posted it.

“Nah I don’t even think he saw it,” Todd stated definitively.

I’ll tell you what I didn’t see: writing a 400 word blog post about a five-and-a-half minute conversation on the morning show about my two fingers.

So I was eating brunch on Wednesday with my friend and long-time show contributor Jordi Lippe at one of my favorite restaurants in the city, the West Village’s Monument Lane.

Sorry but I need to pause this story for a second: a colleague gave me grief when I was telling him this because apparently “brunch” is only a weekend thing. My definition of brunch is breakfast food between 11 am and 3 pm, regardless of the day. Monument Lane has excellent everything and their Breakfast Bowl with poached eggs, barley, squash, red onion, radish and parsley-garlic pesto hit the spot.

Anyways, I look up from my coffee and I see a familiar face strolling down the street, just kind of looking around and smiling; taking it all in.

It was Andy Cohen! He was walking his dog. We made eye-contact, offered a quick nod of the head, and continued about with our business.

What struck me the most about this “celebrity sighting” (which by the way, despite my profession, I am terrible at in the city), is just how happy Cohen looked. Granted it was a relatively nice day outside; I’ll take 40 degrees and clear any day of the week in January. But still, it was nice to see a public figure enjoying a rather normal activity with no one bugging him.

Of course, I took to Twitter after Jordi and I parted ways to post, “I want to feel as happy today as @Andy looked when I saw him walking his dog just now.”

Cohen responded: “my moment of zen!”

And if Cohen, who juggles his reality TV empire at Bravo, his talk show, his satellite radio station and numerous other ventures, can make time for that moment then so can we.

Sure some women grow up with the dream of one day becoming Miss America – but how many of them also envision the crown’s travel schedule, which involves a different state every 48 hours?

“I live in airports and in hotels out of my suitcase,” the current titleholder, Savvy Shields, told me on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The two of us chatted for a few minutes on the third floor of the Good Morning America building after her TV appearance. “It’s been good. I don’t really remember much of it so that’s why I’m trying to journal and if I look at my social media then I remember everything I did.”

The journal idea was something Shields, who represented the state of Arkansas in last year’s competition, mentioned to me when we chatted the day after she won. Since that interview, the 21 year-old hasn’t sat still, but has experienced some cool moments including a trip to the American Music Awards where she joined Florida-Georgia Line on stage.

“(B.K. and Tyler) were fantastic,” she noted. “I mean, we’re southern people so we get along right away.”

With Shields’ personality, it’s hard to envision her not getting along with anyone, nor is it a stretch to think that she’s now getting recognized throughout these travels.

“I’ve gotten a lot of ‘Are you on TV?’” she said. “So it’s like, they know who I am, but it’s not until I have the crown on that they put two-and-two together.”

And contrary to popular belief, Shields isn’t always wearing the crown. Matter of fact, it wasn’t on her head at the AMAs; that and her new hair style that night which featured bangs lead yours truly to not recognize the titleholder, an occurance Shields did not let me forget during our interview. However she also joked that there is another time when people don’t realize she’s Miss America.

“If it’s an ‘airport day,’ they don’t really believe me,” Shields said. “So I mean it really depends!”

There are certainly more “airport days” on her docket, but also some once-in-a-lifetime destinations such as the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, both of which take place this spring. “Miss America” is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which also handles all of the aforementioned award shows along with “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” another show that Shields participated in. The Arkansas-native didn’t seem to mind the December climate in New York too much.

“Maybe it’s everyone dancing that’s making it not as cold?” she wondering out loud. “I was expecting to be layered in like 7 parkas but I’m actually just down to one so we’re good to go.”

Hopefully for Shields that meant not having to pack or travel with as much; right after witnessing the ball drop she skipped the champagne toast and received an escort out of Times Square to grab a head start on the next part of her never-ending itinerary. Although I’m sure at this point, she couldn’t envision her night any other way.